Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

The problem with 5 minutes

What can you achieve in 5 minutes?

I ask this question because, after a drought of gigs in the past month I find myself with four coming up all of which are 5 min slots (Preston, Manchester, London and Liverpool in case you’re interested). The problem is that my “act”, as it is, is 17 minutes long. I also don’t really tell short jokes, or even use punchlines either, i tend to build up stories or ideas into longer anecdotes (also I’m not that funny in short bursts, or longer bursts either…). So what do I do?

It’s an odd amount of time, in many ways it’s barely anything, in others an eternity. It’s also hard to judge the room and make comedic adjustments (when I’ve only done 2 gigs) in such a short amount of time. If this were sex it could be both good and bad. For example “I lasted 5 mins” is seen as bad publicly (but maybe good privately?!?) whereas “a quick shag” is good (or better). So how do I, comedically, have ‘a quick shag’ rather than ‘last five minutes’.

I’ve been reading a load of comedian’s autobiographies and 2 things struck me.

The first is the omnipresence of Daniel Kitson, I mean seriously, every book has 2 pages devoted to a gig where they shared the bill and were left trailing in the wake of him (Lee Mack & Michael McIntyre), destroyed by his brilliance. This “Kitson moment” seems to always happen in the first 3 gigs of a comedian’s career. This presumably means that as I approach my 3rd gig that Daniel Kitson will be there to make me vastly more inferior than I already am.

The second is that they all took between 60 and 100 gigs to get good. Yes 60 to 100. You didn’t read that wrong. Fuckin’ loads. The problem is that I’m currently working on a 20 gig per year basis. So, I won’t be good for another 5 years. Firstly that’s ages away, and even after that there is no guarantee that I’ll have elevated myself from “pretty shit” to “amazing”. More likely i’ll have gone from “pretty shit” to “not terrible but still pretty shit”.

So what do I do?

Actually I have a plan. Oh really? You do surprise us… Yes I do, shut up inner voice. Or what? Well, nothing. Anyway…

I’m wondering whether to make the lack of time the asset of my piece, that i have to get on and get the material out there, and that a good bit is always just round the corner, but never quite make it… All appearing ad-hoc, but actually very cleverly manipulating the audience. Like a puppeteer. With puppets. In an audience. Of a comedy club.

So yeah, my next post will probably be about me being beaten up for being shit and not preparing a set…

Also should i wear a shirt and tie or a stripey t-shirt for my act. I’m finding that a real dialemma..

Bye for now.